Learning Dutch: 7 questions answered

So maybe you’re about to take the plunge and delve into the scary world of learning Dutch. Chances are, you probably have a few questions to ask or you want to know what stages you’ll have to go through to get there.

If any of these questions happen to be on your mind, then DutchReview is here to answer them — we’ll tell you all the things to know before learning Dutch (I know, we’re pretty ace people, right?) Let’s get down to it then! Here are seven things you need to know before learning Dutch.

7. Is learning Dutch hard?

Some people say that learning Dutch is easy and other people insist that it’s hard. I think it all depends on several factors:

  •  If you’re fluent in English or German or both (this is a massive help as there are so many similarities);
  • If you’re fluent in more than one language (there’s research to suggest you pick up languages faster if you are);
  • If you can pronounce those terrible, gutteral gghhhhhhh sounds.

How learning Dutch may be hard:

  • The pronunciation can be tricky as hell for some people *cough* me *cough*;
  • The order of the words can be mind-boggling;
  • Dutch people will always be better at speaking English than you are at Dutch, so they’ll switch.

However, some aspects of learning Dutch may be easy:

  • Over 1,500 Dutch words are in the English dictionary — meaning, you already know around 1,500 Dutch words!
  • Dutch words are also present in many other languages, so you may find you know even more;
  • Believe it or not it is possible to learn Dutch for free, you just have to be dedicated.

All in all, learning Dutch certainly isn’t easy and it’s not something you’re going to learn overnight. Just try not to get too hung up on whether you think it’s going to be hard or not. And don’t worry too much about the whole de/het thing.

Photo-of-person-journaling-with-cup-of-coffee
Learning Dutch has its trials and tribulations — but you’ve got this. Image: fotografierende/Unsplash

6. Is Dutch similar to German?

In short: yes. Dutch is very similar to German and if you speak German, then you’re sure to spot the similarities as soon as you start learning. Lots of words are the exact same in German as they are in Dutch and others only have slight differences.

However, do keep in mind that the Dutch tend to get offended when you tell them that their language is similar to German, so it’s best to keep that small fact to yourself. And also, it’s similar, but still a different language — if you speak Spanish than Italian isn’t that strange — but still not the same thing.

READ MORE | Pimp Your German: Tips for Learning Dutch

Note: Grammatically, Dutch is somewhat easier. So if you’re German learning the Dutch lingo, then you’re probably going to find this a relief — or not.

5. Do you need Dutch if you speak English?

In theory, no. Plenty of people get around just speaking English when living in the Netherlands. It’s also common practice to find an English-speaking job. But if you’re 100% certain you’ll be staying in the Netherlands, why aren’t you learning the language? There’s a couple of things you’ll be missing out on and I’ll explain those now:

Speaking Dutch and work

So yes, maybe you have managed to score yourself an English-speaking job, but chances are if you want to climb the ranks then Dutch is going to be necessary. If you learn Dutch it will also broaden your whole career prospects as you will qualify for so many more jobs. If you are looking for a complete career change, it will also help immensely. You can’t avoid learning it forever!

READ MORE| Do I need to speak Dutch to work in the Netherlands?

Before we continue, you can always check out these untranslatable Dutch words — they’re always worth knowing (as if the language wasn’t baffling enough).

Socialising and speaking Dutch

To truly fit into any society, learning the language is the thing to do. Not only is it polite (because hey, you are living in their country and all), but it’s also paramount if you want to truly fit into society. You will be able to communicate with everyone and they will be able to communicate with you. It’s a no-brainer really.

READ MORE | Like a native: 21 ways to elevate your everyday Dutch phrases

4. Can you learn Dutch just by watching TV?

I’ve heard of many people who have done it this way, although admittedly it’s probably best to do this alongside your own studies or Dutch classes. You should mix it up a bit by actually watching TV in your language and have the subtitles in Dutch and then watching Dutch programmes with your language as the subtitles. Many Dutch people have learned English this way, as dubbing is not popular, giving people a chance to practice their English skills.

If you speak English, then you’re already in luck. British and American television channels are widely watched in the Netherlands, so it’s the perfect time to start reading the subtitles! Now it’s time for a Friends or Big Bang marathon. Or try a Dutch Netflix en chillin’ next time you’re free — it’ll help.

3. Are there any sounds that are hard to pronounce?

Oh dear, what an understatement this is. Of course, if your language involves a lot of gghhhhh sounds and rolling of the letters, then you’ll be a natural at this. If not, then you’re really going to have to practice. I’m a Brit with no language skills and no rolling letters and it took me six months just to pronounce words such as “Scheveningen” and “Groningen” properly.

READ MORE | Tongue twisters to trick your tongue into talking Dutch

Sounds gross but the best way to practice is to try to bring some phlegm into the back of your throat and draw it in as if you were going to spit it out and then say the word. It sounds awful, but you’ll soon get used to how to say it naturally (without sounding all weird and phlegmy).

Watch this video and get to grips with the G. Then practice. (In the confines of your own home, of course).

2. Do Dutch people speak English?

Yes, very wellIn fact, apart from native English speaking countries, they have the best English language skills out of everyone. The thing is, this can make it hard to learn Dutch as you’ll find that our dear Dutchies will switch to English if they hear us struggling. It cuts time and makes life easier — but persevere! Stay with Dutch if you want to practice, even if they switch to English.

The plus point for their great English skills is that it makes learning Dutch easier (in terms of finding good English material, teachers and whatnot). Just make sure not to take it for granted and give up on your Dutch.

1. Is there any way I can learn Dutch for free?

Aha! You’re in luck here. Yup, there are a few ways to learn Dutch for free. This is definitely one of the things to know before you learn Dutch (it’s quite expensive otherwise). We actually have a whole article dedicated to this.

Learning Dutch for free can also be fast and easy if you put your mind to it! Of course, you can also take your time with it, how long it takes to learn Dutch depends on your own situation.

So, there you have it — seven things to know before learning Dutch. Once you’ve mastered all the weird sounds, you’ll be well on your way to spitting Dutch words out left, right and centre. Good luck.

What tips do you have when learning Dutch? Are there any other things to know before learning Dutch? Let us know in the comments!

Feature Image: Dimitri Houtteman/Pixabay
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2018 and was updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure. 

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Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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